A female inmate at a California prison last year gouged out her own eye and ate it during a psychotic break, according to an internal report blasting the state’s prison system for inadequate care of mentally ill patients.
The report, released last week as part of an ongoing, decades-long federal lawsuit over inmate care, was written by Dr. Michael Golding, the chief psychiatrist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Los Angeles Times, which reported on the document Monday, said that Golding accused prison officials of hiding the truth about the subpar mental health care they provide to those in custody.
“This group has created a biased and inaccurately positive picture of what is actually a troubled system of care,” Golding wrote in the report, which was obtained through federal court documents.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, who made the 161-page report public Oct. 31, is considering appointing a special investigator to look into Golding’s claims.
Golding, who wrote the report based on his own visits to prisons across California, alleged that officials lied to Mueller and attorneys in the case about how often inmates were seen by psychiatrists, boasting in 2017 and 2018 that inmates were seen on time by their doctors at least 90 percent of the time. Golding said the actual percentage of on-time appointments was less than 46 percent.
The chief psychiatrist wrote that inmates were denied appointments in confidential offices, instead being seen by a psychiatrist in the prison yard or through a crack in a solid metal door, where other inmates could hear the details of their conversation.
The corrections department also has a “resetting-the-clock” strategy in which a mental health patient’s psychiatric care is “reset” each time he or she is transferred from one facility to another, Golding wrote in the report. The strategy was used to “deem as compliant appointments occurring later than the maximum interval” permitted, he alleged.
“They reset the clock every time a patient is transferred, irrespective of when the patient last saw a psychiatrist,” the report states. “A…patient transferred more than once might not have another psychiatry appointment for eight months.”
The maximum amount of time the federal court allows a patient to wait to be seen is three months, the report said.
Golding wrote that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a “broken system” because information is not accurately reported and “reliable commonsensical action” is not taken.
“I have documented that patients are not getting to appointments on schedule and in confidential spaces, that appropriate consultation is not occurring, and worse, appropriate medical decision-making by psychiatric physicians has been overridden,” he wrote.
The lack of a proper medical decision was part of the problem for the woman who removed and ate her eye at the California Institution for Women in Chino, the report alleged. Golding wrote that the woman, who he identified as Patient X, presented “relatively well” when she entered the prison system, but she stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication she had been prescribed on the outside.
“Arguably, in situations like this, longer transitions for patients at higher levels of care should be insisted upon when medication from the community is discontinued, even if the patient appears to have the legal right to discontinue medication because of presenting in a logical way,” Golding wrote.
The patient was well for as long as the medication stayed in her system, but eventually, those positive effects wore off and she “did not stay well,” the report stated. Four hours before the April 20, 2017, incident, she was evaluated by a psychiatrist and found to be “gravely disabled,” so the psychiatrist wrote orders for her to be taken to the licensed psychiatric crisis bed unit.
“These admission orders were being followed, except for the order for the patient to go to a crisis bed,” Golding wrote.
Instead, the patient was being monitored in an unlicensed setting that was more like an urgent care facility and, although she was on one-to-one suicide watch as ordered, she was not placed in a “strong gown” because she refused to comply with that order.
Documentation indicated she was actively psychotic at the time of admission, the report said.
“Documentation from the one-to-one observer noted ‘screaming’ every 15 minutes for most of the four-hour period,” Golding’s report said.
Golding wrote that staff members did not contact the psychiatrist on call and the woman did not receive any medication during those four hours. The woman, who was lying face-up on the floor, then touched her left eye for several seconds before removing it from her head.
“The alarm was sounded and two correctional officers entered the cell,” the report stated. “The (inmate patient) was asked to relinquish the eye, however, she put the eye in her mouth and ingested it.”
Golding alleged that multiple psychiatrists who subsequently heard about the incident agreed medication should have been forced on the woman to keep her out of harm’s way. State prison psychologists who evaluated how staff handled the incident, however, determined the failure to contact the psychiatrist on call was not the root cause of the woman’s self-harm.
A psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor, has the ability to prescribe medications, while a psychologist does not. Golding wrote in his report that psychiatrists in the prison system routinely report to psychologists, who make the majority of decisions about system-wide care.
The psychologist in the woman’s case made the decision not to contact the psychiatrist on call, Golding wrote.
He further wrote that the psychologist did not have admitting privileges to the crisis bed unit and that “despite this horrendous event,” the state licensing board was never informed of what happened because the inmate was being held in an unlicensed facility instead of where she should have been.
“The tragedy is that any competent psychiatric physician or general medical physician would have medicated the patient, and likely the patient’s eye would still be in her head had that happened,” Golding wrote.
A Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman denied Golding’s allegations in a statement issued Friday, the Times reported.
“The department strongly disagrees with this individual’s allegations and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts,” press secretary Vicky Waters said. “We have worked closely with lawyers representing prisoners, as well as the court appointment monitors, for many years to improve the mental health of inmates, and our dedicated and well-trained staff will continue to provide appropriate care and treatment.”
Michael Bien, the attorney for California prisoners receiving mental health care, told the Times that the report could throw off the headway made in recent years in improving the programs offered by the prisons. Bien said he had been poised to accept a proposal that would have slashed psychiatric staffing in the facilities by 20 percent, but the agreement has been nixed since Goldberg’s report was released.
“The bigger impact is we felt we were ticking off the last couple of issues before we could end the case,” Bien told the Times. “Now I have to go back and check all those assumptions. The most serious thing is the allegation that misrepresentations were made to the court. That really forces all of us to question what’s been going on.”
A total of 14 faculty and staff members at an Idaho elementary school have been placed on administrative leave after photos of them dressed as a border wall and Mexicans for Halloween brought the school unwanted national attention.
The Middleton School District and its Heights Elementary School came under fire last week after the photos of the costumes -- which were posted to the district’s Facebook page -- went viral on social media. Middleton Superintendent Josh Middleton announced the suspensions of those involved at a school board meeting called Saturday to address the controversy, the Idaho Statesman reported.
A member of the school district’s crisis team has taken over the duties of principal at the elementary school for the time being, Middleton said in a statement posted to the school’s website.
The superintendent said that members of the crisis team will be on hand at the school this week, as will security officers. The district will also start providing cultural sensitivity training for all staff members, beginning Wednesday.
The Middleton Police Department also added extra patrols and a presence at the school to ensure the children remained safe.
The incident has become the source of dueling petitions, including one established on MoveOn.org demanding a proactive approach from the school district. As of Monday afternoon, just over 10,000 had signed the petition.
A Change.org petition seeking to save the jobs of Heights’ principal, teachers and staff, had more than 12,000 signatures by the same time period. The person who established the petition wrote that supporters of the group “believe (the incident has) been blown out of proportion, as this was a team building exercise done after school with no students present or involved.”
Middleton said in Saturday’s statement that the school district “is under a microscope,” but that he views the situation as an opportunity for employees to learn and grow.
“The events of this week, we take very seriously,” Middleton said. “As hard as these events are for ALL involved, we must learn from this and be better as an entire staff for our students, parents and the community we represent.”
The superintendent’s statement echoed the sentiments he expressed Friday, when he apologized in a short video posted to the school district’s Facebook page. The Facebook page has since been made unavailable to the public.
It was on that same page that the public first glimpsed the photos, which were later deleted but had already been copied and circulated on social media. In one photo, six employees are dressed as pieces of a cardboard wall painted to resemble bricks.
“Make America Great Again” is spelled out in red, white and blue letters, and one woman has a crown and torch as the Statue of Liberty. Another waves an American flag and a third wears a patriotic-themed hat.
In a second photo, several employees are dressed in garishly colorful ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. They pose and shake maracas for the camera.
The photos prompted outrage across the country, as well as within the Idaho community. The ACLU of Idaho on Saturday published a statement condemning the costumes and urging school district officials to use the incident proactively to engage the school community and the larger community of Middleton to “create a welcoming environment where all students can thrive.”
“Regardless of the intent of a teacher’s actions in the classroom, we must focus on and give weight to the impact of such actions on the students who rely on teachers and other school officials for guidance and support throughout their educational experience” the ACLU chapter’s statement said. “School districts, their staff and other agents have obligations under federal law, state law, and district policies to prevent and protect students, staff, and others from discrimination, bullying, intimidation, and harassment.”
Administrators of the Idaho DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Facebook page also posted the photos last week, describing them as “extremely disheartening” and said that all children have the right to a school that celebrates all cultural backgrounds.
“Imagine how some of the students felt when they walked into their classrooms on Halloween and saw their teachers (people they look up to) dressed like this?” the statement read. “This is NOT funny. This is heartbreaking. Students deserve better.”
Middleton, who called the costumes “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” on Friday, said he was informed of the photos by a concerned parent.
Along with the school district’s Facebook page, the administration section of Heights Elementary’s website has also been made unavailable, but a popup window contains the statement Middleton released over the weekend, along with one from the school board.
“This type of behavior has no place in education and certainly is not tolerated here at Middleton School District,” the school board’s statement said. “This situation is being taken very seriously. We are in full support of our superintendent and administrative staff as a full investigation is being conducted and are awaiting the results of the investigation to assure appropriate disciplinary action is taken.
“We care about each of our students, their education, and their safety. This is an unfortunate incident of very poor judgment. Yet it is not indicative of the Middleton School District or our teachers as a whole.”
A Mississippi man found himself banned from a Picayune bar after he showed up to a Halloween costume party Saturday dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
The unidentified man walked into Mutt & BC’s Bar and Grill, where a costume contest was taking place, wearing a white robe and pointed hood reminiscent of the outfit worn by Klan members. He carried a Mississippi state flag, which is the only state flag in the United States to still utilize the Confederate battle flag in its design.
Chance Delaney, who posted a photo of the man’s costume on Facebook, told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that he received the image from a friend who asked to remain anonymous.
“This was worn for a costume contest at a bar in Picayune, Ms., and they say racism is dead,” Delaney wrote in a post. “DISGUSTING.”
Bryan Carroll, co-owner of Mutt & BC’s, agreed. He told the Clarion Ledger he made the man leave and barred him from returning to the establishment.
“We do not tolerate or condone racism at any level of our business, customers or staff,” Carroll told the newspaper. “Everyone is welcome, and we do have all walks of life and all races that patronize our place.”
Carroll said several black patrons were in the bar when the man, who was not a regular customer, came in with his “garbage” costume, the newspaper said.
The man’s actions came hours after a gunman walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 congregants who had gathered to worship on Shabbat, which is the Jewish Sabbath. Six others were injured, including four police officers responding to the shooting.
The alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, shouted that “all Jews must die” as he opened fire, police officials said.
Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero praised how Carroll handled the bar patron’s costume choice, which he described as unacceptable.
“The city of Picayune does not support any type of racist or derogatory actions, period, whether it’s true to life or a costume party,” Pinero told the Clarion Ledger.
Mississippi is not the only state where Halloween costumes have sparked outrage in recent weeks. A Kentucky man last week found himself defending -- and then apologizing for -- his choice to dress his 5-year-old son as Adolph Hitler.
Bryant Goldbach, of Owensboro, went to a city trick-or-treating event dressed as a Nazi officer, while his son wore a suit, a swastika armband and a Hitler mustache. Goldbach initially defended his choice by saying the costumes were historical, but later backed down.
“I think it was in bad taste for me to let my child to wear that, probably for me to wear that. It didn't occur to me,” Goldbach told WEHT. “I thought it was a bad decision on my part.”
The Anti-Defamation League reported in February that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose almost 60 percent in 2017, the larges single-year jump on record and the second-highest number of incidents since the ADL began tracking data in the 1970s. There were 1,986 incidents reported across the country, occurring in all 50 states for the first time in at least 10 years, the organization reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, estimates that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members in the U.S. as of last year.
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